Making Garstang a Fairtrade Town

The Garstang Oxfam Group (GOG) started campaigning on Fairtrade in 1992 when it took part in  Oxfam's National
Survey. Two hundred people were surveyed locally and the results correlated almost exactly with those obtained nationally. 82% of people asked locally said they would buy products that were identified as giving a better deal to Third World producers. This compared to 81% of people asked the same question in the National Survey.

The Fairtrade Mark was launched in 1994 and GOG entered the annual Children's Festival Whit procession dressed as Fairtrade products to publicise the event.
In 1995 GOG started the Cafedirect Challenge. Based on the Pepsi Challenge this asked people to do a blind tasting of Cafedirect freeze dried instant coffee and a comparable priced freeze dried Brand X ( Brand X changed for different trials). The taster was asked to add milk and sugar to both coffees to his own taste. A total of 200 people were tested locally at six separate trials carried out from 1/7/95 to 17/5/97. It was hoped the test would show people had no real preference thus demonstsrating that Cafedirect matched in taste and price but had the added bonus of being Fairtrade. The results indicated however, that 49% preferred Cafedirect, 20% showed no preference with only 31% preferring Brand X.

In 1997 the Group decided to try and get Fairtrade products used in local cafes and restaurants with no success. The church campaign was also launched, after all if the churches were not using Fairtrade tea and coffee what chance would we have with the general public. A large catering pack of Cafedirect instant was given to each of the six places of worship in Garstang in an attempt to get them to use the coffee. This was partially successful persuading three out of the six to take up the offer. Later in 1997 a Garstang Fairtrade Guide was published although, at that time, only five places in Garstang sold Fairtrade items.

Oxfam's 1999 annual Fast held in November ran on the theme "Give it up for Ghana" promoting Fairtrade by focusing on cocoa farmers in Ghana. The Garstang Group took part in this and worked with Garstang High School on the subject of chocolate. Particular emphasis was put on Kuapa Kokoo (Ghanaian for 'good cocoa farmer') the cocoa farming cooperative in Ghana that have part ownership of the Divine chocolate company who produce the Fairtrade Marked chocolate range Divine and children's Dubble bars.

It was the American artist John Tullius who said, "Nine out of ten people like chocolate the tenth person always lies" and perhaps for this reason using chocolate as a theme was proving to be successful. The Garstang Oxfam Group therefore decided to continue working around this theme into the new Millennium. They joined up with the local Youth Club and Garstang High School to form the Garstang Go Global Group. They won a Millennium "On the line" award to fund a project around Fairtrade and the slave trade; the former being a modern trading system that relieves suffering, the latter an old trading system that caused suffering. The slave trade was also a good subject linking Garstang, neighbouring with Lancaster, with Ghana; Lancaster, the fourth biggest slave trading port in the UK, and Ghana were two points of the notorious slave triangle. Central to the Go Global project was the play 'Hidden Brutality' on the slave trade and fair trade that was taken to Ghana in the summer of 2001.

To try and persuade the remaining churches, schools and traders to use and or sell Fairtrade products the Oxfam Group decided to have a Fairtrade meal at the former Jacobite restaurant during Fairtrade Fortnight 2000 (6th - 19th March).
Realising the relevance of fair trade to farmers around rural Garstang, who also wanted a fair price for their produce, the meal consisted entirely of local produce and Fairtrade products. The 'Piece de Resistance' was a delicious chocolate and banana Fairtrade pancake. The Mayor, head teachers, clergy, traders and farmer's representatives were invited to the meal. The Mayor became interested in the Fairtrade Campaign, the aim of which was now to get Garstang declared a Fairtrade Town; the first in the world.

The Garstang Oxfam Group had 300 widow stickers made declaring support for Fairtrade and local produce. The sticker carried the Fairtrade Mark, Oxfam logo and a Wyre Brunch Group logo. GOG had teamed up with the Wyre Brunch Group (now the Lancashire Food, a local organisation keen to promote local farming produce. As well as being asked to sell Fairtrade goods stores unable to sell Fairtrade products were requested, along with schools and churches, to use Fairtrade items on their premises. If they agreed to do this, they were asked to sign a pledge form stating they would buy Fairtrade Marked products and local produce, they were then able to display the window sticker. Over 90% of premises signed up to the pledge, most of which displayed the sticker.

On Thursday 27th April 2000 Garstang was voted a Fairtrade Town at the annual Parish Council Public Meeting. On 10th May Hilton Dawson MP for Lancaster and Wyre tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM  694) congratulating Garstang on it's initiative. For the Children's Festival Whit procession this year GOG and the Go Global Group teamed up to again walk as Fairtrade products.

On Thursday 8th June 2000 the Campaign received Government approval when George Foulkes, the then Under Secretary of State for International Development, came to congratulate Garstang on its achievement. He, along with local dignitaries had breakfast at the Coffee Pot on Church Street. The breakfast was made up entirely of Fairtrade and local produce. On his visit George Foulkes said "...the beacon that has started here in Garstang can spread like wildfire across the whole of the country and beyond." Of course, if the fire is to spread the people of Garstang need to keep the beacon burning.

At the Parish Council Meeting, on Thursday 10th August 2000, Garstang Council officially adopted a policy to use and promote Fairtrade products "when reasonably practicable". On 28th February 2001 road signs, sponsored by the Co-operative Group, were erected on the Town's boundaries declaring Garstang as the world's first Fairtrade Town.

During September 2001 the Fairtrade Foundation launched the Fairtrade Town Initiative nationwide enabling Fairtrade Towns, Cities Villages, Islands, Boroughs, Counties or Zones to spread across the country. For simplicity all are referred to as Fairtrade Towns. There are five goals to be achieved in order for the Fairtrade Foundation to award Fairtrade Town status. 

Harriet Lamb, Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, presented the very first Fairtrade Town certificate to 'the people of Garstang' on 22nd November 2001. The ceremony was also attended by the comic actor Tony Robinson who unveiled a commemorative plaque.

It is essential that the people of Garstang continue to support Fairtrade if Garstang is to stay worthy of it's world title. On 18th January 2002 Chester joined Garstang by becoming a Fairtrade City. As George Foulkes had predicted the Fairtrade Towns movement  has now spread beyond the UK and the number of Fairtrade Towns across the world are continually growing.

Making Garstang a Fairtrade Town not only increased awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark to over 70% (the national average being just 20% at that time) but also led to the formation of many links between Garstang and Ghana. These links culminated in a twin town relationship between Garstang and the cocoa farming community of New Koforidua in Ghana. The fair trade campaign has also brought together the problems faced by farmers in Ghana with those faced by UK farmers also struggling to get a fair price for their produce.